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Today’s guest is writer and editor Laura Anne Gilman! She’s the author of fantasy, horror, and science fiction short stories, mystery novels (as L. A. Kornetsky), and several speculative fiction novels and novellas, including the series that comprise the Cosa Nostradamus books (Retrievers, Paranormal Scene Investigations, and Sylvan Investigations). Flesh and Fire, the first book in her Vineart War series (which features wine magic!), was nominated for the 2009 Nebula Award. Her latest novel is the first book in the Devil’s West series, Silver on the Road.

Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman

When Fantasy Cafe invited me to write for their Women in Fantasy series, I had a handful of ideas circling in my head, bumping into each other and arguing for space. What I read as a child, as a teen, as a young adult, that created the storyteller I became (both pro and con).

And then my father was diagnosed with cancer, and died within a space of three weeks, and my thoughts scattered again, refocusing, probably inevitably, around the influence of my dad.

But wait, my brain reeled me in. This is “women in fantasy” month. Dad doesn’t fit the theme. Try something else.

So I did. And it kept circling around to dad. And I realized that it wasn’t only because of my loss. It was because of what I’d been given.

It is inevitable that our parents shape us—and when one of those parents is of the opposite gender, that shaping is often invisible until long after the fact.

My father didn’t read fantasy. My father didn’t read much fiction at all, honestly. That all came from my mother. But he did read, and read voraciously, in history. He delved into the why and the who, the elements that drove action, and the results of those actions. And he taught us by example to do the same, seeing absolutely no reason why our gender would or should have any impact on what we were capable of, with no apologies for being smart, or tough, or delicate, or emotional or clinical, and to hell with anyone who tried to shove us into half-a-space because of Being Female.

I appreciated that when I was in my twenties, and became aware of being female in a male-shaped world. Certainly all that came through in the main characters of the Cosa Nostradamus novels: Wren, who deals with being the “invisible woman” in a competitive field. Bonnie, who carries privilege on her shoulders as both shield and obligation. Ellen, a woman of color whose move from outcast to exceptional made her more vulnerable, not less.

But it wasn’t until I began writing SILVER ON THE ROAD, the first of the Devil’s West novels, that I consciously sat down to think about what it meant to be a daughter to a father, to have that strangely powerful influence on every element of who you are, and all the ways it can go both wrong and right, even with the best of intentions and the most heartfelt of affections.

Isobel née Lacoyo Távora is a daughter—of the Devil, of Flood, of the Territory, of a new world being born around her. She carries with her the weight of masculine expectation, because that is the world within which she was born, the product of forces perceived as masculine—and yet, those forces given a feminine form, the Infinitas that marks her palm and shapes the power she uses, the world she will help reform.

And it wasn’t until my father’s funeral, looking for solace in my loss, that I found the words that matched what I had been exploring.

If my boundary stops here
I have daughters to draw new maps of the world
they will draw the lines of my face
they will draw with my gestures my voice
they will speak my words thinking they have invented them

they will invent them
they will invent me
I will be planted again and again
I will wake in the eyes of their children’s children
they will speak my words.

(from the Mishkan T’Filah, for the house of mourning)

We cannot shape the world, any world, without understanding what (who, and how) first shaped us.

Laura Anne Gilman
Photo Credit: Elsa M. Ruiz
Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the popular Cosa Nostradamus urban fantasy series of novels and novellas, and the Nebula award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy. Her newest project is the Devil’s West series from Saga / Simon & Schuster, beginning with 2015’s Locus-bestseller SILVER ON THE ROAD, and continuing with THE COLD EYE.

She has also dipped her pen into the mystery field as well, writing as L.A. Kornetsky (CollaredFixedDoghouse, and Clawed).

A member of the writers’ digital co-op Book View Cafe, she continues to write and sell short fiction in a variety of genres, most recently appearing in the anthologies Genius Loci and Temporally Out of Order.

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Today’s guest is Lisa from Tenacious Reader! This is a great site to visit if you’re interested in fantasy, horror, and/or science fiction; Lisa reviews a variety of books, including audiobooks, and I enjoy reading her take on what she reads. She also started a really fun feature on the last Friday of each month, Dracarys! Backlist Burndown, for reading and reviewing some books that aren’t the latest releases. Lisa is also a contributor to the collaborative book review blog The Speculative Herald.

Tenacious Reader

Celebrate Women Authors Today—Encourage the Female Authors of Tomorrow

A couple of years ago, Julie Crisp wrote an article on representation of women authors in genre called SEXISM IN GENRE PUBLISHING: A PUBLISHER’S PERSPECTIVE. Honestly, this is the article I had been waiting for in response to all the talk of underrepresentation and/or underpromotion of women in the genre. I am not implying they are not underrepresented, at least within certain subgenres, but I like seeing numbers and understanding WHY they are underrepresented. Now a bit of background. When I went to college, my major was 90% male. So when I moved into the workforce I could not expect my employer to have a 50/50 representation of women to men because I could see for myself in school that not as many women were choosing to go into my field. I had always wondered if the same were true for women authors within at least some subgenres of fantasy. We can’t expect a publisher to be able to sign 50% women authors in a particular genre or subgenre when they are not getting the submissions to support that. So, Julie Crisp, who works in publishing, gathered submission statistics for Tor UK and the result was that there was definitely an uneven number of women submitting stories in some areas of Speculative Fiction. Angry Robot later released their own open submission statistics that had a similar trend. For the record, these were the only statistics I could find on submissions. To really understand trends in the market with regard to gender I think you have to understand the trends of who is writing and submitting, not just who is being published. Both of these publishers happen to be in the UK, although I know at least Angry Robot takes submissions and publishes books from authors globally.

You can not deny there is a stark difference seen in the available submission statistics for some of these subgenres. So, what’s the best way to get more girls interested in growing up to write speculative fiction? Celebrate women authors in this area, get their names out there and get more of an audience. I think getting more women authors in the spotlight so they can be wider read and seen as examples and role models can have an impact in regards to any gender bias. I decided to take the subgenres with lower female submissions according to these lists and highlight a few of my favorite female authors.

I know this is not a comprehensive list, and I know some of the authors are already fairly well known, but for one thing I still have many books to read! So I highly encourage you to share the authors you feel should make a list like this. They all deserve to be celebrated and recognized. The more women that become widely read by both genders within the genre and across its subgenres, perhaps the more we may inspire girls to become readers and future writers.

I think everyone should read what they enjoy! Take whatever the stereotypical expectations based on gender are and throw them out. Embrace what you love, and also remember to help support the women who share not just your love for reading in genre, but also spend the time and effort to write stories of their own to share with the world.


Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey Miserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa Frohock

Robin Hobb – Any list I create of favorite authors is going to have to feature Robin Hobb at the top of the list. Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series is comprised of a number of shorter series. It takes the reader on a number of fantastical (and emotional) adventures. I think Hobb has maybe caused the most heartbreak as well as the most excitement for me as a reader. If reading is an addiction, Hobb is my vice. I absolutely adore her books, even though (or maybe because?) they are an emotional rollercoaster. Any fans of epic fantasy that have not read Hobb really need to get a copy of Assassin’s Apprentice and read her for yourself. She is hardly an unknown or obscure author in the genre, but her fame and success is highly deserved and should continue. I just could not make a list and not include her.

Erin Lindsey – Lindsey’s Bloodbound is an incredibly fun and addictive series that reminds me why I love to read the genre. Another thing I love about Lindsey’s books is that women are clearly equals in the society in every way, to the point that it is not discussed or brought up. It is a portrayal where women are afforded equal opportunities and respect in what we might consider non-traditional roles for women.

Teresa Frohock – Any fans of dark fantasy that think women don’t write in that subgenre absolutely must read Frohock. Her books are dark, imaginative and full of magic and definite shades of grey. She also does an amazing job of packing in so much you leave the book with a broader picture of the world and character than seem like should have fit in the pages.


The Three by Sarah Lotz Day Four by Sarah Lotz Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Sarah Lotz – Lotz blew me away with The Three. I was fascinated with both the story as well as how it was told. For those not familiar, it is pieced together with various journals, articles and social media, very much mimicking how we currently follow actual news stories today. When Day Four came out, I was very curious if it would be told in the same manner, wondering if it was, if the uniqueness would wear off, or feel like a gimmick. And if it was not, would the story be as strong? Day Four is told in a more traditional manner, and it is incredibly well done. I absolutely love and highly recommend both of these books (just don’t read Day Four right before getting on a cruise. Seriously, don’t do it.)

Lauren Beukes – Beukes’ works are ones that are hard to force into any specific genre box. Honestly, I think there could be an argument made for fantasy or science fiction as well, but when it comes down to it, it is the emotional and atmospheric elements that I love most about her works. And for this, I will place it in horror. For any fans of Joe Hill, I always recommend Lauren Beukes.


Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie The Heart Goes Lastby Margaret Atwood The Long Way To a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Ann Leckie – Leckie’s Imperial Radch series has garnered a good deal of attention and awards. All of which are earned. It is a series that forces you to look at your own gender assumptions and expectations, and in addition, it also tells an exciting and intriguing story. I loved the hive mind AI concepts in this series and feel that aspect has been a bit overshadowed by the buzz about gender. Highly recommend it.

Margaret Atwood – I know, I know. Everyone has heard of Atwood. Half of us probably had to read Handmaid’s Tale in high school. But, I hate to admit, even though I enjoyed Handmaid’s Tale, I never read more of her books until this past year. The Heart Goes Last was brilliant and insightful and surprisingly funny (in a dark sort of way that I love). I personally need to go back and explore more of the books she has written, and encourage others to read her as well.

Becky Chambers – I have not read that many space operas, but Chamber’s A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet makes me question why. It was a wonderful examination of diversity, acceptance and expectations, the issues with passing judgements on others. It is an incredibly fun book, but it is in no way shallow; it is insightful and has a wonderful commentary on cultural differences and acceptance of others. Highly recommend.

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Today’s guest is science fiction/fantasy author and Tea and Jeopardy podcaster Emma Newman! Her science fiction novel Planetfall was released last year to much acclaim, and the first book in her Split Worlds series, Between Two Thorns, was a finalist in both the Best Fantasy and Best Newcomer categories of the 2014 British Fantasy Awards. She also won the 2015 British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story with “A Woman’s Place,” and Tea and Jeopardy has been nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Fancast twice. Her next novel and the fourth book in the Split Worlds series, A Little Knowledge, will be published in August.

A Little Knowledge by Emma Newman Planetfall by Emma Newman

Negative Modifiers

Back in 2011, I started writing Between Two Thorns (Book 1 of the Split Worlds series). It features a young woman who has managed to escape a secret mirror world where life for women is closer to that of Georgian England, but she is dragged back into it. She chafes against that life, and over the first three novels she tries to find a way to survive, having had a taste of the modern world and the freedom women can enjoy. Another character, a man, enabled me to explore the pressures and toxicity of the patriarchy for men, and between the two of them, I was merrily exploring feminism and toxic masculinity.

There’s a lot of other stuff that happens in those books. Sorcerers, kidnapping, feuding dynastic families—it’s not just the feminism—but it was an important theme to explore for me as I’ve been increasingly angry with the world and the way it treats women. All the time I wrote those novels, there was a part of me that really believed that the awful things a small number of the characters say were so much less likely to be said in 21st century England. It was just writ large in my novels, I thought; having men with 18th century attitudes towards women helped to show how far we’ve come and how hard it is for the heroine to handle after a taste of modern life.

Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman Any Other Name by Emma Newman All Is Fair by Emma Newman

Spool forward to 2013. The books have been published and I’m in a bookshop in Bath, where Between Two Thorns is set, signing a second batch of stock. It’s not an author event—I am literally there in the middle of a normal day, quietly signing books in a little nook.

A man goes to the till, book in hand to pay for it, when the (female) shop assistant shows him a copy of one of my books and suggests he takes a look at it, based on what he is buying. “Oh, no,” he says, refusing to even touch it. “I don’t read books written by women.”

“But it’s really good,” says the assistant. “It’s in the same genre as that one you have there. And it’s set in Bath.”

“No. I suppose I sound like a bit of a bigot, don’t I?” he replies. “But I never read books written by a woman.” The assistant puts the book down, rings the transaction for his chosen book through and nothing more is said.

I’m ashamed to say that I pretended I didn’t hear. I didn’t want to embarrass the shop assistant. I didn’t want to cause a scene, not when I was there in a professional capacity, signing stock. Now, looking back, I wish I had done.

I would have asked him why. I would have asked if he believed that I was incapable of writing a good plot, or realistic male characters. I would have asked if he’s ever tried reading a book written by a woman and if he did, why he thinks that experience should dictate his opinion of all female writers. Surely he’s read books he hasn’t liked, written by men? It certainly hasn’t put him off reading more. I would have asked him if he thought my biological differences rendered my ability to write somehow lesser than that of a man.

But I didn’t.

I remember leaving that shop in shock. I remember telling myself it was just one bigot. Right? One closed-minded man, and it was his loss. So many amazing books have been written by women. Perhaps he had been reading Robin Hobb for years, thinking those novels were written by a man. And more fool him; he would never read The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. The best I could hope for is that he’s picked up a book by N.K. Jemisin and believed it was written by a man. I wished I could open up a door to an alternate reality where I could have had my book published under initials or a gender neutral pseudonym and persuaded him to read it. Where I could have seen whether he would have enjoyed it once that barrier of my name on the cover was removed. I know a lot of men have read the Split Worlds novels and loved them. Maybe he would have been one of them. Hell, maybe reading about the patriarchy and how it damages men as well as women would have been useful for him. Maybe reading about how men with attitudes like him can be so hurtful, so destructive, might have opened his eyes. I don’t know. I never will.

The majority of the endemic problems caused by misogyny and sexism are rarely so stark. I realised that when it became clear how authors who happen to be women are frequently left out of various list posts, annual summaries and “best of” lists—even though the reviews for their work when it first came out have been amazing. Somehow, female authors are forgotten faster than male authors. So easily overlooked it is heartbreaking. Around the same time, I and several other authors noticed the paltry number of books by female authors displayed on SFF tables and featured promotions in many branches of Waterstones on the UK high street. Our polite letters to them about this issue were brushed off. I wonder if my complaint would have been taken more seriously had I signed my letters with initials or a gender neutral pseudonym.

Many of the negative modifiers, to steal an RPG term, that female authors have to endure are far more insidious than one openly bigoted man in a bookshop. It’s an entire society and culture that is so used to the male gaze and the constant belittling of women that it’s considered the default, the norm. It manifests for us as a constant threat to our careers as authors, as our work is less visible and when discoverability is all, that can have a direct impact on our sales which in turn affects how likely our careers are to last over time. I consider myself lucky though. For many women it manifests as sexual assault, as domestic violence, as murder. I can see the threats to my career but I still have a blessed, privileged life. There are millions of women all over the world, suffering far, far worse.

Returning to purely the book world, how do we tackle this problem? How many times does the SFF community have to decry a predominantly male list of books/authors? How many times do we have to write and signal boost posts about all the amazing women out there—who have been writing SFF just as long as the men—and urge people not to overlook them?

What will it take to change an entire culture that perpetuates the insidious, toxic idea that women are lesser?

That very question is being explored in the rest of the Split Worlds series. In August of this year, the 4th Split Worlds novel, A Little Knowledge, is being published. The heroine is discovering just how hard it is—and how dangerous it can be—to try to push against the patriarchy. It was interesting writing that book several years after Between Two Thorns. I didn’t have the pleasure of naively thinking that I was writing male characters still trapped in the past. They are still here, in the real world, the modern day. It is we who are still trapped with them.

Emma Newman
Photo Credit: Joby Sessions for SFX Magazine
Emma Newman writes dark short stories and science fiction and urban fantasy novels.  She won the British Fantasy Society Best Short Story Award 2015 and ‘Between Two Thorns’, the first book in Emma’s Split Worlds urban fantasy series, was shortlisted for the BFS Best Novel and Best Newcomer 2014 awards. Emma is an audiobook narrator and also co-writes and hosts the Hugo-nominated podcast ‘Tea and Jeopardy’ which involves tea, cake, mild peril and singing chickens. Her hobbies include dressmaking and playing RPGs. She blogs at www.enewman.co.uk and can be found as @emapocalyptic on Twitter.

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Thank you to last week’s guests for another great week! This month has flown by, and it’s hard to believe the last week is about to begin. Before announcing the schedule for the final week, here’s what happened last week in case you missed any of it:

Also, Renay and I are once again collecting favorites to add to the giant list of recommended SFF books written by women (which now includes nearly 1500 books with many recommended by multiple people!). Thank you so much to everyone who has added some recommendations! If you haven’t already added some recommendations this year and would like to do so, you can add 10 of your favorite SFF books by women you read in the last year here. These books can be old or new.

And now, the schedule for the final week of Women in SF&F Month, starting tomorrow!

Women in SF&F Month 2016 Guests

April 25: Emma Newman (The Split Worlds, Planetfall, Tea and Jeopardy podcast)
April 26: Lisa (Tenacious Reader, The Speculative Herald)
April 27: Laura Anne Gilman (The Devil’s West, The Vineart War, Retrievers)
April 28: Joanna (Strange Charm)
April 29: Laura Lam (False Hearts, Micah Grey)
April 30: Bone and Jewel Creatures Review

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Since there have been a couple of fantasy book giveaways this month, I thought it was time for a science fiction book giveaway! This book was one of my favorite books of 2013, The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord.

One of the things I loved about this book was that it was very different from what I’d expect given its opening: although it begins with destruction and certainly doesn’t gloss over the resulting heartbreak, it’s overall a very hopeful story. It’s not about vengeance but about a people moving forward after devastation and those who come together to help them do just that. The main character, Delarua, is a compassionate, intelligent woman with a cheerful outlook that shines through her narration, and experiencing events from her perspective is pure fun as she visits different settlements on her planet. I enjoyed reading it very much and found it to be both entertaining and thoughtful (my review of The Best of All Possible Worlds).

This giveaway is open internationally—anyone from a country qualifying for free shipping from The Book Depository is eligible. More details on the book and giveaway are below.

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord

A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.

Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race—and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team—one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive—just may find in each other their own destinies . . . and a force that transcends all.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Best of All Giveaway.” One entry per household and one winner will be randomly selected. Those from a country qualifying for free shipping from the Book Depository are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Friday, April 29. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Update: Now that the giveaway is over, the form has been removed.

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Today’s guest is writer and award-winning artist Janny Wurts! She has authored eighteen novels, including the books in the Wars of Light and Shadow series, To Ride Hell’s Chasm, Master of Whitestorm, and Sorcerer’s Legacy, and has contributed to numerous fantasy and science fiction anthologies. Her books are often her own creation both inside and out since she usually illustrates her own covers (including those on the two novels shown below!).

The Curse of the Mistwraiths by Janny Wurts To Ride Hell's Chasm by Janny Wurts

Mediocrity, Reality, and the Merit of Erasing the Boundaries

By Janny Wurts

I am not writing this post to lie quiet, but to incite a crossfire discussion and a lively round of controversy. Many of us can remember a time when our field was considered a fringe interest. While I was a college student, engaged in earnest to write and paint fantasy, I noticed how outsiders reacted. People encountering my world of unbounded creation fell into three distinct categories. The first group viewed my imaginative paintings, glanced away in visible discomfort, then immediately dismissed them, and me, with their most obvious, hasty excuse for retreat: “you must be on drugs” to perceive things “like that.” The second batch gave the works a shallow glance and retreated behind the nearest acceptable label, “Ah, that’s like Tolkien,” end of discussion. The last group, rarest and most interesting, would stop, speechless, and examine what was before them with intense interest–and what usually followed was a focused and relevant exchange concerning the context of imagination and how the unknown related to or expanded our concept of reality. These were the people who saw the world beyond category, and were willing to engage and extrapolate.

Why is it that pure “imagination” is so often applauded in children and stigmatized in the adult? Why are some people so frightened of ideas that fall outside of their comfort zone, and whose defensive choices have defined that acceptable, boundaried mediocrity called “normality,” anyway? Why do we continue to apologize for “fantasy” when in fact, the apology might be more aptly applied to the lack of playful supposition? When did “reality” become the relatable fixation in today’s world, most of all when cutting edge physics has blown the limitations of Newtonian physics so far out of the envelope that the rulebook of “science” is still catching up? Why do we settle for a “realistic” world, when the very term has been used and reused to confine us–to draw boundaries around what is “reasonable” to expect?

Exactly when did the dry reason of “reality” replace expansive hope and the endless creativity offered by the imagination?

I attended a college at the forefront of experimental education, an institution notable for changing the ground rules by encouraging the absence of limitations and beating the drum for social and world change. And yet: I had a head butt with the college librarian over the subject of my novels that, over the years, had been stolen from the school’s collection. When I volunteered to ship replacements, the librarian told me, “Don’t bother. It scarcely matters, the books are just escapist fiction anyway.”

Which smug attitude set my hair on fire on about a dozen counts.

First: every single advance in society, technology, knowledge–anything–began with an idea. Started with the unbridled imagination, toying with concepts that were not “real” or concrete or even accepted as possible. Everybody’s experience confirms this. Imagination is what fuels change. It is the magic that lets us reassemble old ideas in startling ways, or brashly invent new ones. It is where hope and inspiration are found, beyond knowing, and where the walls around what we believe are broken, or dissolved, or escaped. It has no cost, no penalty, and no prerequisite. Everyone with the wits to think can access anything, with infinite ease.

Did I say escape? Yes. In absolute terms, that has a priceless value. Not just for the talent of invention and innovation, either.  “Escape” is quite often our most available therapeutic relief from a bad day, a bad month, a difficult life change, or a toxic work place. The gift of imagination can remake or revise or vault over problems and deliver a changed experience that, proven fact, alters brain chemistry and relieves stress. It accomplishes all of this without side effects or drugs, so where do people get off slinging that word as a negative concept?

Why are some people scared of imagination (yup, you have to be on drugs or crazy to “go there”) or dismissive of it (quick, let’s give it the acceptable label, and move on, thank you very much, now we’re done).

Betty Ballantine often said that SF/Fantasy readers were among the most intelligent, inquisitive and interesting group of people on the planet. They have always been unafraid to look what is different straight in the eye, and quickest to explore beyond the familiar.

The stigma attached to such curiosity, frankly, belongs with the cynic who refuses to suspend disbelief long enough to venture into a refreshed perspective.

We, the readers and creators, all can agree that the vibrant concepts in fantasy and SF literature, film, comics, and poetry hold the power to tear down, build up, alter, and transform. Our drive to experiment, and to thrive on, changing ideas and turning the predictable inside out and upside down offers an infinite dimension to explore concepts beyond daily life.

Time to kick the doors of complacency and throw down the gauntlet in challenge. Because we are given the power to imagine anything, to redesign every single limitation considered immutable–why is there currently such a surging trend to revel in the apocalypse? Now that fantasy and SF have gone “mainstream” and “geek is chic” have we, as a community wielding the cutting edge potential of unfettered imagination, fallen in bed with the cynic and forgotten to wake ourselves up?

Are the problems in our world today not created by the mass failure of creative imagination? Isn’t falling back again and again on what’s already been tried the surrender of our very human (and underappreciated) power to envision solutions outside of the historical record? Creativity is infinite. And yet, we are told and told over, “reality” says otherwise. Why do we listen? Defined, the cynic is someone who has forgotten to question the restriction of their own fixated beliefs. The socially applauded “snark attitude” that grants us the pack permission to laugh off sincerity, in cold truth, applauds nothing. Instead, it encourages us to build ourselves into lead lined boxes, that are also ideas, so sadly nailed shut by the platitudes of our commonly accepted assumptions.

It is a mass hypnosis, or lazy thinking, that imagination by its very nature can blow out of the water, no question: but at the risk of ridicule and “being unrealistic.” When did it become “normal” to pan hope, to give up building a positive vision, and instead create “cool” scenarios of bleak wrack and ruin?  Why do we have so many bestselling stories that run the gamut glut of “totalitarian society” VS the “badass rebel” and since when has that bitter world view claimed the forefront of our field? Since when has the cynical take eclipsed the unlimited vista of modern SF and fantasy?

Not every book, not every film, but admittedly a lot of material topping the charts colors the picture pretty heavily in one direction. The imbalance has become so prevalent, one must look to the fringes to find the exceptions.

If fiction is the posited exploration of beliefs, the living mythscape of our times, have we at the forefront of imaginative creation forsaken the gift of outstepping our boundaries? Have we become “uncomfortable” with the concepts of beauty and hope to the point where such things now seem an immature embarrassment?

This piece is not intended to define or condemn the field as it stands today, but rather, to stimulate conversation in earnest from the standpoint that exploration of the ‘hell in a handbasket’ scenario seems to be claiming the lion’s share of the attention. Fantasy and SF have “gone mainstream” in ways I could never have imagined, when I started out with the career dream to paint and write. Our literature and our films are no longer so casually labeled or dismissed, and our worldwide impact is no longer regarded as the accidental byproduct of a drug culture. My question, placed at large for the purpose of stirring discussion in the community: have we, in fantasy and SF in our turn, bought the mainstream picture of using imagination to stay inside the box? Have we joined ranks with the deniers who blindly denounce the full spectrum offered by true freedom of thought? Has the modern trend to extol the algorithm created the perfect storm where pop culture at large has bought into the ultimate lie of defending the cynic’s picture of limitation? Has Fantasy and SF garnered the widespread numbers only to lose the fringe benefit of challenging the status quo? And if it has, are we comfortable?

I’m not. Let discussion commence.


Janny Wurts Through her combined career as an established professional novelist and her background in the trade as a cover artist, Janny Wurts has immersed herself in a lifelong ambition: to create a seamless interface between words and pictures that explore imaginative realms beyond the world we know. Best known for the War of Light and Shadow series, with nine volumes published of eleven, her titles include standalones To Ride Hell’s Chasm, Master of Whitestorm, and Sorcerer’s Legacy; the Cycle of Fire trilogy; and the Empire trilogy written in collaboration with Raymond E. Feist.

Her paintings and cover art have appeared in exhibitions of imaginative artwork, among them, NASA’s 25th Anniversary exhibit, Delaware Art Museum, Canton Art Museum, and Hayden Planetarium in New York, and been recognized by two Chesley Awards, and three times received Best of Show at the World Fantasy Convention.

Story excerpts, announcements, and print shop can be found at www.paravia.com/JannyWurts